‘Iranian spring’ threatens Arab Gulf

Friday 31/07/2015

The people of Iran took to the streets to celebrate the signing of the historic nuclear agreement that may lead to the end of years of economic sanctions and decades of international isola­tion.

The lifting of economic sanc­tions would result in the unfreez­ing of $150 billion in funds, in addition to more revenue from huge economic contracts with European and US companies desperate to enter Iran’s market­place, which has been ostensibly shut to foreign companies for decades.

In short, Iran will be drowning in money.

This Iranian victory will, by necessity, be followed by a similar economic victory for the Arab Gulf. Despite Gulf nations’ fears of Iran’s intentions, there are economic benefits to the lifting of sanctions. The Gulf is the most impor­tant trading route to Iran and, whether each side likes it or not, a vital economic partner.

Regardless of all this, Iran remains committed to its ideology and regional ambitions, and the lifting of sanctions will ultimately finance an “Iranian spring”.

Arab secularists must step forward to explain why a religious state ruled by clerics should be permitted to possess nuclear technology. Western terrorism experts have said that the elimination of religious extrem­ism can only take place in conjunction with stricter regula­tion of social media and modern technology.

Despite this, we are allowing a state that has been founded on an extremist ideology to emerge from under international sanc­tions, something that will allow it to strengthen its military and foment conflict in the region.

More than this, Tehran is advantaged by a sense of organi­sation, discipline and an excellent use of modern communications to promote its agenda. Coinciden­tally, these are the same charac­teristics that the Islamic State (ISIS) is known for. Whatever happened to the old-school extremists who opposed the use of cars and rejected mobile phones as un-Islamic?

Prior to the signing of the nuclear deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that an agreement needed to be signed as soon as possible in order to secure greater coopera­tion in the fight against terrorism.

But how can there be any such cooperation when relations between Iran and the Arab world remain as they are today?

How can the Arab world cooperate with Iran to fight Sunni jihadists when Tehran is support­ing Shia jihadists and Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar Assad? Cooperation is simply not possible under such circum­stances.

The Gulf nations cannot trust a state that is led by the velayet-e faqih, particularly when US President Barack Obama did not hesitate to say that Iran could be “a very successful regional power” if it agrees to a deal over its nuclear programme, some­thing that it has now done. Arabs feel bitterness and betrayal from its long-time ally in the United States.

In addition to this, we have seen the impossibility of any alliance between Turkey and the Kurds against ISIS.

Turkish generals have broken their silence to say that Ankara rejects granting the Kurds the practical support to fight ISIS, fearing that it could transform into a battle for Kurdish inde­pendence and a threat to the Turkish state.

The lifting of sanctions on Iran has another meaning. This is a victory for Tehran and shows that the Iranian regime — despite years of sanctions and diplomatic isolation — ultimately emerged victorious against the US super­power. After four decades of Iranian isolation, Washington has returned to deal with Tehran as a partner.

The Arabs find themselves in a difficult position, facing a number of different threats: The threat of a resurgent Iran no longer under the financial strain of international sanctions and the threat of ISIS as a political and military power in the region at a time when there is no real strategy to combat it.

The United States is in a difficult position: The Arabs want it to declare war on Iran and the Houthis, the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS, all at the same time.

However, this is simply not possible, particularly as the region is hopelessly divided. Qatar and Turkey are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, while Arab Shias feel sympathy for Iran and Yemen’s Houthis.

The Arab world and the United States do not necessarily share the same problems; however, it seems that the major problem today is the rise of ISIS and not Iran. It is clear that there is an entire new world taking shape before our eyes. The problem is that this might be taking place at the expense of the Arabs and our future.